Javier Baez has already done what we’ve hoped would happen for Jorge Soler after learning that Kyle Schwarber would be out for the season:
Take advantage of his opportunity.
Don’t get me wrong. I still believe in Jorge Soler and think he’ll be a very useful player for the Cubs in 2016, but there’s little to the argument that he’s earned more immediate playing time at the MLB level right now. His offense isn’t quite clicking (.188/.280/.297) and he doesn’t have the benefit of adding much on defense or on the base paths.
Javier Baez, however, has been fairly locked in at the plate (.306/.342/.444 – 23.7% K-rate), and more importantly he’s looked absolutely outstanding in the field.
Last night was no exception to that. Starting at third base for the fourth time this season, Javy Baez put on a defensive clinic at the hot corner. Watch:
Not only was that play fantastic, he later showed off his impressive arm, twice, on plays that not every third baseman could make (remember when Statcast clocked him at 95 MPH to the plate from shortstop).
For his part, Joe Maddon agrees. “You can’t play much better defense than he did tonight,” manager Joe Maddon said via Jesse Rogers after Tuesday night’s win over the Pirates. “Javy was spectacular.”
He really was. In fact, he was so good at third base that you might soon consider giving him some dedicated time there, while pushing Kris Bryant out to left field – where he’s also looked solid. That defensive alignment would improve the defense at both positions (Baez over Bryant at third, Bryant over Soler in left field), while keeping a hotter bat in the lineup for the time being.
However, you don’t want to fail to utilize Baez’s versatility (or fail to give the equally promising Jorge Soler his due time), as he can spell multiple players; but at the same time, it’s potentially going to be hard not to start him regularly at third if he’s going to play defense like that. Bryant’s very good at third, too, but Baez – going back to last year – looks like a potential impact guy defensively.
Jorge Soler will still draw his starts in left and right field, but with a bench as talented as the Cubs is right now (Tommy La Stella, Javier Baez, and Matt Szczur (when healthy) are all crushing it), Kris Bryant may be pushed out there more and more often, at Soler’s expense. The best or most exciting way that can happen, in my opinion, is via Baez at third base.
Indeed, on Wednesday, Baez drew his second consecutive start at third base, while pushing Bryant to the outfield once again. That start marks Baez’s 9th start and 14th appearance in a game (out 17 potential opportunities) since coming off the disabled list on March 15. Baez at third and Bryant in left field may not have been how we drew it up in the offseason, but so far, it seems to be working out just fine.
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.